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Islamic world gathers in Istanbul to address challenges

FATIH ŞEMSETTIN IŞIK @semssami
ISTANBUL
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<em>IHA Photo</em>
IHA Photo

The two-day Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Istanbul will bring together the most important leaders of the Muslim world who are expected to address some of the most intractable problems faced by Muslims and try to find solutions through unity and justice

The leaders of the Islamic world gather today in Istanbul for the 13th session of the Islamic Summit Conference as Muslims around the world call on them to find solutions to many problems that bedevil the ummah, especially the violent wars caused by sectarianism and their dire humanitarian consequences. All 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) across four continents sent delegates, with many represented by their heads of state, to this important meeting where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as the chair of the summit, is expected to set the tone of proceedings to channel the resources of the Islamic world to address the rising threats of Islamophobia and sectarianism, along with resolving the current situations in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali, and Armenia's aggression toward Azerbaijan. With this in mind, Turkey chose the summit's theme as Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace. The catastrophic civil war in Syria continues to harm the Islamic world. It has entered its sixth year and left more than 270,000 people dead while displacing half of the country's population. The future of the war-torn country and its president, Bashar Assad, remains uncertain, despite the forthcoming talks in Geneva and the elections in several areas controlled by Assad.

Moreover, the quagmire that emerged with DAESH's expansion in the region, together with its attacks in Western countries, is another challenge that stands in front of the organization. Most of the victims of the terrorist organization are Muslims, despite the organization claiming that it fights for them. DAESH fights mostly in majority Muslim countries and often attack other Islamic communities including Shiites and Sufis, who the group considers to be heretics.

Facing these challenges, the organization is expected to produce concrete solutions to relieve problems in the Muslim world in terms of humanitarian crises, especially with its economic potential thanks to the membership of rich Gulf countries and economically rising powers. Speaking to Daily Sabah, Galip Dalay, director of the Istanbul-based Al Sharq Forum, stressed the importance of Turkey's taking over the term presidency of the OIC from Egypt and said it will lead the organization to a point of greater awareness. "It is the biggest institution after the United Nations and it has two important symbols: First, 57 countries gathering and declaring an intention to do something is significant. Second, it has a lot of elbow room for humanitarian crises. They have financial aid packages."

Regarding the OIC's economic capability, Ramazan Yıldırım, the editor-in-chief of Ru'ye Türkiyye, published in Arabic by SETA Foundation, also pointed to the potential of the institution to create tangible gains in ending the humanitarian crises. Yıldırım said: "I am hopeful about it. It has potential and the awareness to remove this injustice. Although it is not enough, the institution fulfills its responsibility in humanitarian aid. "It might be an opportunity for Muslim countries to gain economic independence and a platform for developed and less-developed countries to share their experiences in solutions to their problems," he added. He underlined that each country in the institution wants to act in accordance with its political agenda and that reaching a common point in this situation is difficult.

Muslim countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq have been shouldering the task of hosting most of the Syrians who have fled the war in their country. The 8 million Syrian war refugees in these countries have put serious strains on state budgets and public services. Turkey, with its 2.7 million Syrian guests, has the biggest share in this burden, as the latest figures announced by the Interior Ministry showed this week. Furthermore, the fight against DAESH, both in the region and elsewhere, is another big challenge that the 57-chaired institution is expected to show its effectiveness in.

Speaking to Daily Sabah, Arsalan Suleman, the U.S.'s Acting Special Envoy to the OIC, emphasized Turkey as a model for refuting radical thoughts, saying, "Turkey is important for not only being a critical ally in the fight against DAESH, but it is important for being an example to the Islamic world. They are claiming that they are trying to establish an Islamic state, right? Look at Turkey; it is a wealthy country whose democracy is well-run and a majority Muslim country. It refutes these groups' arguments."

Concerning the ideas of DAESH, Yıldırım also said they are related to the West, not the Islamic world, especially when it comes to having an accurate perception of the terrorist organization.

"In fact, there is nobody that did not condemn them from the institutional level and intellectual level. This problem is related more to the change in the perception of the other side [West] rather than the Islamic world."

The Director General of the Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries (SESRIC), Musa Kulaklıkaya, said that finding solutions in the practical field in this fight is essential and that they are currently carrying out a research with the instruction of the OIC. "Perhaps a military initiative will be used. However a military solution cannot deal with this problem. It needs a comprehensive analysis and sociological research. Necessary measures must be taken."

Indicating that decisions, which will be taken about this fight by political leaders, must have an observable impact on the public, Kulaklıkaya said: "Concrete and very effective decisions will be taken in this summit. New institutional structuring will take place."

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